Periscope Snap Meerkat

Vertical videos and photos are here to stay – and design snobs need to deal with it

By Dustin Davis, creative director

August 6, 2015 | 3 min read

It’s time for everyone to realise that it’s not vertical photos or videos that are the problem, writes Struck creative director Dustin Davis. It’s us, the snobs, the designers, who won’t adapt to the way people are using technology.

People shoot portraits in a vertical aspect because it allows the subject matter to get closer and fuller in frame. Many will often remark that the ‘photo doesn’t do it justice’, and anecdotally that’s due to how small things appear.

Further, the proliferation of smartphones has given everyone the ability to effectively shoot many, many casual photos and videos. These devices are designed to be used primarily one-handed, and are most comfortable shooting that way. Comfort leads to adoption.

Vertical video is annoying because designers have designed it to be annoying. We let the user’s captured content interfere with our ‘design’ – it looks broken because we fail to accommodate. We’ve leveraged our field as a bully pulpit – apps that force videos to be shot in landscape, tools to correct ‘incorrect’ videos, PSA videos or websites to send to clueless family members that snakily tell them how dumb they are.

It’s elitism, not problem solving. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We live in an era of responsive design and flexible grids. Design and implementation of an elegant system falls to us if we focus on how something was captured, and honour that intent (or guide it as Instagram does). Mobile guidelines practically require various screen sizes.

Next time you see a video or photo shot vertically, don’t be snarky about how it’s best to shoot in landscape. Blame the interface designers ignoring their users. Blame yourself.

If it’s inconceivable that people will upload in a format that isn’t conductive to your interface, adapt your interface to allow it. Use constrained cropping and allow users to click/tap into their full content. Better still, make your interface adaptive to the aspect ratio.

Alternatively, integrate the uploading process to allow for user-cropping to your desired aspect ratio. Let them participate in your design decision, and empower them to make their photos look even better in presentation.

Biases and times are changing. Snapchat, Meerkat and Periscope practically demand vertical video in an inverse form of rigidity. IFFRotterdam 2014 had a vertical video section, and now YouTube will adapt display for them. Further making this irrelevant is that they also allow 360° videos – something people will undoubtably be shooting in as we all strap VR to our heads. Something we’ll all inevitably hate. Let’s maybe get ahead of that curve.

Periscope Snap Meerkat

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